Getting breast-feeding off to a good start

The following tips will help you get breast-feeding off to a good start.

Making skin-to-skin contact immediately after the baby is born

Placing the baby right on her mother’s chest, skin to skin, has many benefits. The baby retains her heat better and is calmer. This contact also triggers her reflex to take the breast.

Feeding in the first hour after birth

In his first hours of life, the baby has sharper reflexes that help him find and take the breast. It is therefore easier to start breast-feeding in his first few hours of life. This first feeding will be etched in the baby’s memory and will help him recall what to do next time. After these first few hours have passed, the baby will enter a rest and recovery period during which his reflexes will “hibernate” for a few hours.

Breast-feeding on demand or as needed and not skipping feedings

The frequency and length of feedings varies from one baby to another. In the first few days of life, some babies want to nurse very often, so mom feeds on demand. Other babies do not always initiate feeds and therefore need to be encouraged and stimulated to nurse. This is called breast-feeding as needed. Once baby has regained her birth weight, she will generally ask to eat when she needs to. This is called breast-feeding on demand.

Rooming-in with your baby, both day and night

When you are physically close to your baby, you can detect early signs that he is hungry. This makes feeding easier because he will be calmer when he takes the breast. It is easiest to feed often and on demand. This also helps you get to know each other and to quickly provide for his needs.

Avoiding bottles

Breast-feeding is a learned skill for babies. Sucking at the breast involves a very different technique than drinking from a bottle. Milk flows faster from a bottle than from the breast, especially in the early days of breast-feeding. For some babies, these differences make it difficult to learn to breastfeed.

Giving a bottle also means skipping a feed, which can reduce milk production, a process that is still getting established during the first few days and weeks. If you cannot give your baby milk directly from the breast, ask about other ways to give her breast milk.

Avoiding pacifiers

It is normal for newborns to want to suckle and to frequently request the breast. Frequent feeds stimulate milk production and help baby take more milk. Babies who use a pacifier may sleep longer or fall back asleep without taking the breast. In some babies, these skipped feeds may reduce milk intake and slow weight gain.

Ensuring baby has a good latch

When the baby takes the breast properly, feeds are comfortable. The mother experiences virtually no pain and suffers no nipple injuries when the baby has a good latch. Babies learn to latch on in the first few days of life, so ask for help if feeds are uncomfortable.